Closing the entertainment gap with library services

Rely on Your Library

by Ron Geelan

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One of the first casualties of my family budget in this endless recession was expenditures on leisure and entertainment. In tough times, you have to limit your spending to things you need, and forego spending on things you may want to do or have. Fortunately, library services can help fill these voids.

My family and I just spent a wonderful day at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, courtesy of our local library. The library purchased a museum membership pass that any patron can check out for the day, as if it were a library book. The current suggested admission rate at the Museum of Natural History is $16 for adults and $9 for children. At the suggested rate it would have cost my family of four $50 just to get through the front door.

While we could have contributed anything we wanted, I hate to do that. So by using the library's passes it was free to us and the museum was getting it's share of my tax dollars.

My first job out of college almost twenty years ago was at the Orange County Library System (OCLS) in Orlando, Florida. I was amazed to learn that patrons didn't even need to leave their house to take advantage of what the OCLS had to offer. All a patron had to do was phone in a request for a book or video and it would be mailed out at no cost to the patron. Now, you can make this request via e-mail or through an online account. Why pay your local cable company or video store $5 to rent a movie when you can check it out of your local library?

These are just a few examples of the many library services that can supplement your leisure activity budget. But free library services are not confined to entertainment. Many also offer valuable adult continuing education classes. The following is a brief list of additional library services provided by libraries in New York and Florida that I researched for this article:

  • Online help from tutors and online tutoring videos covering subjects from algebra to SAT preparatory classes

  • Internet access

  • Continuing education classes on several subjects, including computer basics, software applications, English as a second language, and resume writing

  • Downloadable media, including music, e-books and e-audio books

  • Various entertainment programs for children, including story time and movies

  • Use of community rooms for group meetings

Many of the aforementioned services, such as SAT preparatory classes and tutoring, can cost several hundred dollars. Before you pay a private company or a professional to provide these services, check with your local library.

Again, these services are offered by libraries I have personally used in New York and Florida, but it is likely that libraries across the country offer similar services to their patrons. So visit your local library or their website. You may be surprised at the time and money you can save just by showing them your library card.

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